Is It a Bird, Is It a Plane? No, It's Ed Ruscha!

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Okay, make fun of me. With hundreds of Pacific Standard Time exhibitions — or is it thousands? — non-stop, 24/7, all over town, I desperately needed an escape. So, to nature, to the wilderness I went or, more precisely, drove. It was a picture perfect day, and driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, I was soaking in the polished, manicured "wilderness" of the Pacific Palisades and Malibu. Passing Pepperdine University, with its gently rolling hills, I couldn't resist deviating from my initial plan to spend the whole day with nature and went to see the art exhibition at the University's Weisman Museum. After all, I do believe that Art, like an apple a day, keeps doctors away.

at111011b.jpgFrederick Weisman had a larger than life personality, and as a passionate collector, he left a big legacy. The selections from his collection on display there illustrate his ability to fall in love with both major and minor works that he simply had to have. Among these works is a small model of Mr. Weisman's famous private jet, which two L.A. artists, two friends of his, were commissioned to paint in 1987. Ed Ruscha painted the exterior in deep night-sky blue with a sprinkle of stars, and Joe Goode painted the interior. Imagine flying to Paris in this plane, just to see an exhibition and returning home the same day. That's what Mr. Weisman often did, inviting a few artist-friends to join him. So, 20 years ago, looking at the sky, one might wonder: Is it a bird, is it a plane?... Nooo, it's Ed Ruscha!

at111011a.jpgLast week brought a whole series of new accolades to our city's cultural legacy. A New York collector bought the whole exhibition of Don Bachardy's portraits at Craig Krull Gallery, all 34 of them. Here is a visionary collector recognizing the importance of keeping this historical body of works intact. There is a rumor that these portraits of various California artists will be donated to a prominent New York museum.

at111011c.jpgThe Art Newspaper, a major international art publication, devoted its current October issue to the Los Angeles art scene. There are about a dozen articles, including the one with a dollar-by-dollar breakdown of how the Getty Foundation doled out its $10 million in grants to various California institutions participating in PST. LACMA tops the list, receiving nearly one million dollars. I'm pleased to report that the Art Newspaper gave KCRW's Art Talk a shout out, quoting my review of the unnerving exhibition of Ed Kienholz at LACMA.

at111011d.jpgIn another milestone of a sort, the prestigious ArtForum, the least populist and most highfalutin of all American art magazines, named its October issue "Art in L.A." and featured a striking photo from a street performance staged by Chicano group Asco, with the artist Gronk laying as if dead in the middle of nighttime traffic.

at111011e.jpgHopefully, all this flattering attention will not go to our heads. Here's yet another L.A. story that recently graced the front page of the New York Times' Arts section. A 340-ton, 21-foot high granite boulder is about to start its slow journey from the Stone Valley Quarry, along 120 miles of roads, highways and bridges on its way to the Los Angeles County Museum. This rock is a part of a mindbogglingly ambitious project by artist Michael Heizer called Levitated Mass, as it is meant to hover over a trench dug on the museum grounds. It makes me think of the famous monument to Peter the Great in St. Petersburg for which another gigantic boulder was heroically moved, two centuries ago, in excruciatingly slow motion. So now it's our turn. L.A. really rocks!

California Art: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation
Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University
Through December 4

Don Bachardy: Portraits of L.A. Artists
Craig Krull Gallery
Through October 15

Banner image: Frederick Weisman's Lockheed L-1329 JetStar 731, the exterior painted by Ed Ruscha and the interior painted by Joe Goode in 1987. Photo: © Copyright Bob Garrard